Though it is not always discussed as frequently in the United States, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer put together. Chronic pain (and back pain in particular) afflicts millions of Americans, who, in turn, spend $86 billion every year to treat it. For example, 20% of American adults claim that physical discomfort causes them sleeping problems two to three nights a week, if not more. In fact, back pain is so pervasive it is the second most common reason Americans go to the doctor’s office. Ailments such as chronic neck pain, phantom limb pain, post-surgical pain, and sciatica can make ordinary, day-to-day activities such as driving a car or sitting down on a chair difficult or even unbearable.
Neck pain, phantom limb syndrome, and sciatica are all dangerous; however, back pain is the most common chronic pain condition in the U.S. today. More than 26 million adults in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 64 — an astounding 8% of the total population — experience back pain. The average worker loses about five hours a week due to chronic pain and American businesses lose more than $60 billion a year due to hindered productivity. Nearly $45 billion of that sum is the result of low productivity rather than absenteeism.
However, there is hope for those who suffer from chronic pain conditions. There are a number of treatments and therapies available, including epidural steroid injections, spinal cord stimulation, nerve blocks, and piriformis muscle injections. There are even therapeutic/alternative medical options such as acupuncture and massages. Chiropractic medicine has also been proven to be very effective with back, neck, and spinal pain.
Though chronic pain may not receive the attention it deserves, it is still a serious problem in the U.S. Anyone who notices chronic pain in their back, necks, legs, or torso should go to a medical professional and have it examined immediately. Life should be as pain-free as possible, and medical professionals are here to help.
Chronic body pain can be a major obstacle for anyone to overcome. Conditions such as chronic back pain or neck pain are often burdensome and, at times, debilitating. Everyday tasks such as sitting down, writing with a pen, or even walking can be difficult for those who suffer from chronic body pain, which, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, affects roughly a quarter of the U.S. population. Chronic pain ranges from mild discomfort to severe irritation. It depends on the part of the body and the causes. No matter the severity, chronic pain is something no one wants to go through and yet is something that Americans spend $86 billion on every year.
However, there is hope. Pain management is a prominent field in medicine. There are many treatments and therapies available to control and eradicate chronic pain. Though there are many different kinds of chronic pain conditions, back and neck pain are two of the most common (lower back pain, in particular, being the #1 most common). Back and neck pain can be caused by muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, injuries (for neck pain, auto collisions, especially rear-end collisions, is a common cause), and diseases. Post-surgical pain is also a common condition. People who lose limbs often suffer from phantom limb pain, in which the person feels as though the missing limb still exists, often causing tremendous pain and stress.
There are a variety of treatments, both medical and alternative, to help combat chronic pain. Medically, chronic pain can be treated by steroid injections, spinal cord stimulation, nerve blocks, and piriformis muscle injections. Epidural steroid injections are often used to treat lower back and leg pain. The steroids are injected directly into the affected area in order to reduce the pain and stress on the body. Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment in which small electrical currents are sent to your spinal cord, interfering with the nerve impulses that cause pain. Nerve blocks are a kind of anesthetic that block nerve impulses from reaching the brain, effectively cutting off the pain.
There are also more alternative options to consider. Massages, for example, have shown signs of effectiveness in treating muscle pain. Chiropractic medicine focuses exclusively on the back and spine and has been proven to work for pain reduction. Acupuncture, though not strictly medical, is a popular alternative to surgery and pharmaceutical drugs. Finally, even yoga and meditation have been shown to improve chronic pain as well as mental well-being.
So, no matter what your condition is, effective pain management is not as unreachable as you may think. Chronic pain is quite common and universally hated. No one should have to endure pain everyday. If you ever find yourself in a distressing situation, know that there are a variety of avenues to choose from in leading a healthy, painless life.
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There is hope for patients with chronic neck and back pain; thanks to an innovative procedure. Unfortunately, back pain will affect 80% of all adults at some point in their lives. While most back pain is temporary and lasts only a couple of weeks or months; some people experience chronic symptoms which can linger for years. A few local specialists have been utilizing a promising treatment for these patients. It is called Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) and attacks the pain at its source, the nerve. By doing this, the “pain messages” cannot be transmitted to the brain.
Chronic back, neck, or joint pain can be debilitating for simple activities like: carrying groceries, walking the dog, sleeping through the night, golf, tennis, softball, basketball, volleyball, skiing, bowling, hiking, kayaking, biking, gardening, traveling, construction work, flooring, etc. RFA can help patients resume and enjoy these activities again. For example, when a golf pro suffers from back and/or neck pain, it negatively affects their ability to swing normally which causes them to lose power, distance and accuracy. Losing their ability to swing normally will hinder or can even end their career. RFA allows golf pros to resume their normal, pain free swing, return to the top of their game, and lengthen their career.
Unlike a sudden injury, there often appears to be no obvious reason for this pain. Whereas, normal back pain is caused by an acute injury, such as a muscle pull; chronic back pain has elements of arthritis and usually worsens with activity or even weather changes. In fact, RFA has been especially helpful to those who suffer from facet arthritis; a condition which affects the majority of adults over the age of 50.
Frequently, this pain is related to the facet joints in the back of the spine. When these facet joints are affected, pain messages from the facet joints travel along sensory nerves, called the medial branches, to the spinal cord. Once they have reached the spinal cord, the brain is notified that there is an injury and receives the sensation of pain. The injury may involve the cartilage (slippery covering of the ends of bones), the capsule, or the ligaments that surround the joint and connect it to the other areas of the spine. Additionally, through a natural “reflex action”, muscle spasms can occur as a reaction to the joint’s injury and/or pain. The location of the pain is directly related to which facet joint is experiencing the injury.
If these joints are suspected as the origin of the symptoms, a simple test called a medial branch block can be performed to help confirm the diagnosis. The physician will temporarily block the nerves that supply these joints; resulting in pain relief. While this reprieve doesn’t last long, it does prove that blocking the pain messages is an effective treatment for their patient.
Radiofrequency Ablation is a minimally invasive, office-based procedure which consists of placing special needles into the same location as the medial branch block and then inserting a radio-frequency probe into the needle to cauterize or ‘bum’ the nerve. Since these nerves are the ones that carry the sensations to the brain, cauterizing them will stop the perception of pain. RFA can alleviate symptoms for between six months to two years and may be repeated.
Many seniors have found that Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) has given them the ability to, once again, enjoy activities such as golf, tennis, kayaking, etc. For these patients, treatment has been absolutely life changing.
Pain specialists are always searching for effective treatments which provide significant relief to their patients. Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) offers a long-lasting solution that has been proven in both test studies and real world applications. It is becoming more widely used by physicians across the country. Great strides have been made in the treatment of pain over the last several years. As technology continues to advance, the outlook for chronic back pain sufferers looks brighter than ever.